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Showing posts from December, 2011

Eating up the food miles

I recently heard a radio interview with Dr I. Eatwell (I can’t remember her real name but she was a Californian food-head) who told us about her weekly cycle jaunt out of the small town of Davis in California to pick wild herbs.We were, of course, all supposed to gasp in admiration at her zeal to seek and eat local. In a sense, she was emulating the famous French aristocrat who suggested that, in view of the shortage of bread: "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" or “Let them eat cake”. Quite simply, there are not sufficient wild herbs to meet the gastronomic needs of the firm and courageous citizens of even a small town such as Davis. Moreover, since Dr I. Eatwell harvested the herbs before the seeding period, she selfishly pulled the plug on food chain sustainability. The concept of local food is elitist and unworkable for the general population. So let’s do the sums. According to Sustainable Table, we should confine our food choice to 100 km radius. Lets extend that to 120 …

Dying for Christmas

According to the experts and politicos in public health nutrition, the greatest food-related condition on the planet is obesity.That is not so. The fat and overweight all over the world will enjoy hearty feasts this Christmas or at their equivalent major holiday. It is hunger that is the greatest food-related condition facing mankind. One billion of the globe’s citizens will go to bed hungry on Christmas night, as they do every night. That is one in 6 of our fellow humans.They live mostly in South Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2050, over 95% of the growth in the global population to 9 billion will be in these two regions. So too will be the worst effects of climate change in reducing agricultural output. Aside from the de-humanizing effect of hunger, there follows in its food steps a whole slew of diseases, mostly infectious diseases, caused by a greatly impaired immune system.The consequent daily death rate from hunger is equivalent to 30 fully laden jumbo jets crashing each and…

The inherent flaws of food intake data

The inherent flaws of food intake data

Measuring our dietary patterns and linking it to patterns of disease is at the core of modern nutritional epidemiology and such data drive national and global food and nutrition policy. There is, however, a serious and inherent flaw in the measurement of food intake which modern nutritional epidemiology tends to forget. That flaw is energy under-reporting. Our energy requirements are composed of several factors, the most important of which is resting metabolism which accounts for about 85% of energy needs in a normal adult following a typical sedentary western lifestyle. These energy needs are to keep our hearts beating, our lungs breathing, our kidneys filtering, our brains remembering and so on. We can directly measure this as a person’s resting metabolic rate (RMR) using a calorimeter and there are also a number of ways of doing so indirectly, some of which areextremely accurate. We can also calculate our RMR using a number of equations and you…

The epidemic of obesity ~ as fat as it gets

The epidemic of obesity ~ as fat as it gets
John Minnoch (1941-1983) lived in Seattle and is credited in the Guinness Book of Records as being the heaviest male in history. At 6 feet 1 inch tall, he weighed 442kg, equivalent to a BMI of 128. That equates to the biomass of just 4.5 Irish adult males! Now when we talk about the epidemic of obesity, there is a possibility that some people might think that a significant fraction of the population would reach the weight of John Minnoch. That is not how it works. Several years ago Steve O’Rahilly, Professor of Medicine at Addenbrooke’s Hospital Cambridge and a world authority on the genetics of obesity, raised the possibility that the epidemic of obesity was beginning to level off in the UK. Thus, faced with an obesogenic environment, the population variation in genetic predisposition to obesity is such that those who can cope with this environment will remain within the normal weight range while those susceptible to an obesogenic environmen…